What to ask when buying second hand

Just after the holiday season is a great time to buy second-hand things.

woman is buying second hand and asking questions

Just after the holiday season is a great time to buy second-hand appliances and gadgets; knowing the right questions to ask will ensure that you don’t overpay.

Selling old appliances and gadgets online has become more popular recently, and the influx of new products at Christmas time means that you’re more likely to find a bargain online. 

Buying second hand can be risky, but with caution you can secure yourself a great product at a fraction of the retail price.

Why is the item being sold?
The answers you’re looking for here are:

a) the device has been a faithful servant, but has now been replaced and is no longer needed, or,

b) it was a gift, was not wanted and has therefore barely been used.

Some people try to offload products that are faulty or didn’t live up to their expectations, and you don’t want to get stuck with their mistakes. Which is why you should also always ask…

Can I test it out?
If it’s a coffee machine, ask if you can come over and taste a cup, if it’s a home stereo system ask if you can listen to something on it (pick something that you know well so you can tell whether or not it sounds right). If the seller refuses without good reason, they might be hiding something. However, they might just want to avoid hassle and wasting time, so try to be as accommodating as possible. Remember that you might not be the first person to contact them and a few people may have left them hanging after wasting their time.

How well has it been maintained?
Different appliances and devices will require different care, and without it they can break down earlier than expected. Before you send a message to a prospective seller, have a look online to see how the device should be maintained or cleaned. Asking this can save you from buying something that’s on its last legs, and could lead the seller to lower the asking price. Either way, it’s a win for you.

Do you have proof of purchase? Or a warranty?
It doesn’t happen often, but people do sell stolen goods online. However, you might not need to be quite as vigilant say with buying a fridge as you would buying an iPad.

Does it come with the necessary accessories?
If it doesn’t, you might end up spending more money than you thought you would. For example, if someone has purchased a new computer they might want to sell their old one, but keep the screen, keyboard and mouse. Buying these devices separately might blow any money you will save.

Have you considered buying refurbished?
This is a question to ask yourself. If you’re not confident to buy something second hand, refurbished is a good compromise. A refurbished item will have been serviced recently and will often come with a warranty, for a much more affordable price than buying brand new.

Have you scored any bargains by buying second hand?



    To make a comment, please register or login

    29th Dec 2016
    DON'T buy ANY secondhand tech as you may have never ending problems. The same goes for "refurbished" goods which could be secondhand, as well. You get what you pay for and with tech it is EVER so true.
    29th Dec 2016
    I'm Careful. But I can also fix most things !! But for others who cant, Leave them alone :-) I've picked up Most of my Tools and nearly all of my computer gear Second Hand and seldom Disappointed :-) But that's Luck, and knowing what your looking for :-)
    29th Dec 2016
    So EVERYONE is an electrician? Get real.
    29th Dec 2016
    I SAID IF YOUR NOT ! Leave it alone !!
    29th Dec 2016
    Go to Jan-Feb Garage Sales and pick up Rich Buggers 1 Year Old Computers and Hi Fi's and Microwaves and Fridges And Phones And..... :-) For a Song. Been doing it for Years !! :-) :-)
    And don't be alarmed if it don't work to good. :-( Tough T**ttie's it only cost 10 Bucks :-) :-)
    Try again next week :-)
    I've very seldom got a Dud :-) But I'm a Fix It & Electrician so don't really care !! :-)
    29th Dec 2016
    Ive had the same $50 Computer for 5 Years and its Faultless !! The only problem it has is Telstra finding it Very Difficult to get down its Pipes :-( :-( :-(
    29th Dec 2016
    Don't lose the crank handle.
    29th Dec 2016
    For me often the difference in price and warranty makes me decide to buy new. Though I did take the plunge a some years ago and bought second-hand lap top which I am using right now still. It was originally sold at $1800 and I got it for $500, less than two years old and still under warranty, luckily because the DVD drive got fixed shortly after. But it is still going strong after 7 years! So second hand can be good but get one with a warranty of some sort, 3 months is not long enough which is what most refurbished ones have.
    29th Dec 2016
    Bought my 1st PC (286) brand new in 1991 and paid a fortune for it. Within a matter of weeks it was obsolete, so I upgraded it myself (to 386SX). A couple of months later I bought a 2nd-hand 386SX for the kids at a quarter of the brand-new price. So I decided to NEVER AGAIN BUY BRAND NEW.
    Since then I have been building my own PC's (23 in total) from a mix of new and used components, sourced mainly from eBay. This works out very cheap if you stay one or two generations behind the bleeding edge. All the parts just plug together and it is pretty hard to go wrong.
    So I currently have 3 Desktop PC's which are actually home-builds 21,22 and 23.

    Again, with Notebooks, I purchased my first one brand new about 5 years ago, and paid a fortune for it. It was very disappointingly slow and hardly got used until the warranty ran out and I was finally free to replace the hard disk drive with a SSD. Wow!!! What an improvement. Basically, the warranty was stopping me from making it usable, so again I decided to NEVER AGAIN BUY BRAND NEW.
    Since then, I have bought another 11 Notebooks (all 2nd-hand), and re-sold 6 of them at a tidy profit. The original brand-new one was eventually sold at a loss of course, and I currently have 4 of the 2nd-hand ones in use by myself and my wife's business.

    And NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER FORK OUT FOR BLEEDING EDGE TECH (which will be out-dated by the time you get it home anyway).
    29th Dec 2016
    We are not all as tech savvy as you, sounds great if you got the know how and patience to fiddle with them.
    30th Dec 2016
    Musicveg, I'm not actually all that tech savvy.
    You just have to bite the bullet and open up the case and have a go. It's all just observation and common sense, with a little bit of google research if you are not sure of something.
    Desktop PC's are easy, because they are all made from interchangeable components, except some of the "name" brands (which use some non-standard parts and connectors because they have a vested interest in making it hard for owners to upgrade). So, if buying a 2nd-hand PC with the intention of upgrading it, don't go for a big name brand.

    Notebooks are harder because there is very little room inside, so most components are non-standard except for Hard Drives, DVD-Drives, and Memory (RAM). These can easily be upgraded, and replacing the Hard Drive with a SSD and adding a bit of RAM is just as good as getting a new PC.

    But all that aside Musicveg, you have obviously found that buying 2nd-hand works, with your $500 notebook which is still going strong after 7 years. (Although I look for notebooks in the $150-$250 range to re-sell, or $250-$350 to keep for myself)
    30th Dec 2016
    Thanks for the info, I think it is a great idea to recycle rather than buy new. I am thinking it will be a great project for my teenage son who has great observation skills and likes to tinker.
    30th Dec 2016
    Tinker is Good :-)
    30th Dec 2016
    Its not what it is, Its what its gunna be !! :-) :-)

    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles